WXXI AM News

Sexual abuse

Journalists from the USA Today Network have published allegations from more than 16 women that they were abused by a Christian youth camp leader in Western New York. The allegations date back to the 1990s and involve sexual and emotional abuse.

We talk to the reporters who have been working on this story for months. Our guests:

  • Sarah Taddeo, consumer watchdog reporter for the Democrat and Chronicle and USA Today Network's New York team
  • Georgie Silvarole, backpack reporter for the Democrat and Chronicle and USA Today Network's New York team

Saying she and other adult sexual abuse survivors deserve their day in court, Marissa Hoechstetter is looking to the New York State Legislature to make that possible.

Hoechstetter said former Columbia University doctor Robert Hadden sexually abused her in 2010, when he conducted routine medical exams during her pregnancy.

How should communities address child sexual abuse? It's a question that has been raised in recent weeks after Hilton elementary school principal was charged with sexually abusing his students. State Police say there are now 11 victims at Northwood Elementary School, all boys, between the ages of 8 and 12. The principal, Kirk Ashton, faces a number of charges, including first-degree sexual abuse, second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child, and endangering the welfare of a child.

How can children, families, and the community heal? And what can be done to better screen for possible predators? How can abusers be reformed? Our guests answer these questions and more. Our guests:

freeimages.com/Aron Kremer

It was a call to a hotline that triggered an investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of nine students at Northwood Elementary School in Hilton.

"This child indicated that he was empowered and he found a safe adult, and the safe adult took it from there," said Stefanie Szwejbka, manager of community education at Bivona Child Advocacy Center.

Max Schulte/WXXI News

A Hilton elementary school principal is accused of sexually abusing students.  


CITY Newspaper file photo

Four more former Democrat & Chronicle paperboys have sued the newspaper, alleging they were sexually abused by their supervisor while on the job in the 1980s.

Their complaint, filed in state Supreme Court on Wednesday, named Jack Lazeroff, a late circulation department employee who oversaw newspaper deliverers at the time, as the abuser.

The Harvey Weinstein trial offered a chance to assess the strength of the MeToo movement. “It’s a perfect test case of what happens when a culture begins to shift,” said Deborah Tuerkheimer, a law professor at Northwestern, to the New York Times.

Is this the beginning of a permanent shift, with the powerful being held to account? Or was the verdict not strong enough? Our guests discuss it. In studio:

(AP) ALBANY - Churches, youth groups, and schools were hit by a tsunami of lawsuits in 2019 after New York gave survivors of childhood sexual abuse a one-year window to sue over allegations ordinarily barred by statutes of limitation.

Now, some lawmakers want to open the same window for people abused as adults, a move that could lay a pathway for people to file additional lawsuits against some high-profile men targeted in the #MeToo movement.

Sen. Brad Hoylman introduced the Adult Survivors Act this autumn, saying survivors of adult sex abuse deserve their day in court.

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News

It was an emotional day Wednesday as hundreds of childhood sexual abuse survivors filed lawsuits in New York courts on the first day of a one-year window of opportunity for victims to seek civil action against their abusers. 

Susanne Robertson and her two sisters were orphans at St. Colman's Home in Watervliet, near Albany, where she said they were routinely abused by the nuns and other staff there. When one of the girls reported the sexual abuse to a nun at the home, she was transferred to an orphanage for mentally disabled children. 

freeimages.com/James Chan

Kevin Higley can't remember if it was the summer of 1987 or the summer of 1988, but he does know he was 14 years old and serving as an altar boy at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Scottsville.

He said a parish priest, Father Paul Cloonan, asked him to go with him to visit a nearby monastery.

"And in the car on the way back from the monastery, he asked me if I could help him with a medical issue," Higley said.